Monday, January 23, 2017

Epiphytic Orchids Versus Cold Rain

Laelia anceps var. veitchiana 'Fort Caroline' blooming on my tree here in Southern California.  It was raining!  I shot the video through a window screen.  In the neighbor's window there's a Phalaenopsis  watching my Laelia.

Every day the Phal dreams about growing on a tree... but not in California.  Phals are by far the most common orchid so it's a terrible travesty that they can't grow on trees here.  I'm sure that there are probably one, or two, exceptions but Laelia anceps is a much better bet.

A few years ago I picked up my anceps from the raffle table at the Orchid Society of Southern California (OSSC).  Ben Boco had been nice enough to donate it to the society.   Check out another of his Laelia anceps blooming on his tree...


Even though anceps is a great orchid for California... there's  definitely room for improvement.  I'm guessing that they really don't take advantage of our winter rain.  Where they come from it rains during the summer and rarely rains during the winter.  Here in California it's the opposite.

There aren't any epiphytic orchids that are native to Mediterranean climates.  The only exception MIGHT be Polystachya ottoniana...

However, there are certainly quite a few epiphytic orchids that have no problem growing when it's cooler.  For those of you who grow orchids outside in SoCal (or similar climates)... this time of year you can identify your cooler growers by checking to see which of your orchids have active root tips and/or new shoots.  These will be the orchids that are actually taking advantage of our winter rain.  In theory, they could be crossed with more warmer growers in order to develop crosses that grow and bloom year around...

I think it's a pretty awesome goal to have far more productive epiphytic orchids so let's compile a list of species and hybrids that are happy to grow during winter here in SoCal and similar climates!

Here are some other links that should hopefully be of some interest...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Number One Plant Rule

My comment on Tom's blog entry: The staghorn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, a cold hardy subtropical fern

My comment has a bit of spoiler so I recommend reading his entry first!


Wow!  Really excellent story!  Great info and pics!  It was very interesting and entertaining to read about your Platycerium's successes and setbacks. I kept thinking that the "reveal" would be that your Platy was finally killed by an exceptionally cold winter.  So the suspense had me sitting on the edge of my seat.

Several years back, thanks to Craigslist, I got a really great deal on an overgrown NOID Cattleya. I divided it and ended up putting divisions on around a dozen different trees.  All the divisions quickly established and grew quite well.  Each year they all flowered.  Then a few years later... my garden got hit by a freeze and around half of the divisions were killed.  Some of the causalities were only a foot away from survivors.

This exceptionally cold event confirmed my number plant rule... don't keep all my eggs in one basket.  Hedge my bets! No two locations in any garden are going to provide the same exact amount of protection. Every garden has an incredible variety of microhabitats.  So if it's a plant that I'd be sad to lose, then I endeavor to maximize my chances of success by hedging my bets.

With this in mind, whenever I share divisions of cherished plants with friends... I be sure to let them know that I'm not being nice or generous or altruistic... I'm simply insuring my plant!

Sharing is caring?  Sharing is insuring! So it's a good idea to cultivate a network of strategically situated plant friends!  Heh.

Of course for plenty of plant enthusiasts a primary goal is to have an impressive specimen.  Which is fine... if the plant has already been adequately insured.  But with plenty of plants it's easy enough to propagate them from seed/spore. Just sprinkle some Platy spore on some wet floral foam in a pot... place the pot in a zip lock bag, set it by a window and voila! Your Platy's insured!

The benefit of propagating from seed/spore is that the apple might fall far from the tree in the direction of greater cold tolerance.  Progress is a function of difference.

Here's a pic of the Cattleyas a few years ago...

Cattleya Portia coerulea

And a relevant quote from the father of modern economics...

When a great company, or even a great merchant, has twenty or thirty ships at sea, they may, as it were, insure one another. The premium saved upon them all, may more than compensate such losses as they are likely to meet with in the common course of chances. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Encyclia cordigera Blooming On A SoCal Tree

Ok, maybe there shouldn't be an Encyclia cordigera on EVERY tree in SoCal... but it should certainly be on MOST trees! It does like heat though so the closer to the coast you live the more full sun you'd have to give it.

The large Tillandsia is Tillandsia ehlersiana. Thanks Andy!

I'm uploading this video for my friend Carlos in Brazil...

He doesn't have any videos yet! But I can't complain too much because he does share quite a few photos...

Here are some other links that should hopefully be of some interest...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Largest/Longest Orchid Seeds?

On 29 June I received a box from a really nice friend.  Thanks friend!  The box contained some super neat mini Tillandsias and a couple tubes of orchid seeds...

Epidendrum wrightii
Schomburkia undulata

The Epi is a species of reed-stem so I was very curious whether its seeds are as exceptional as the other reed seeds that I've sown.  My friend had informed me that the wrightii seeds contain lots of "cotton".  This was interesting to hear because I typically associate cotton with monopodial orchid seeds.  When I saw the wrightii seeds they did indeed look like they had lots of cotton.  Upon closer inspection I realized that, unlike with monopodial orchid seeds, the wrightii cotton was actually part of the seed!

The seeds with long "tails" are the wrightii seeds.  Interspersed with the wrightii seeds are seeds from Epi radicans x Epc Orange Blaze.  Above the penny are seeds of Schomburkia undulata.

Here's what the wrightii seeds looked like after I soaked them for one night...

They clumped together just like Tillandsia seeds do when you put them in water.  Perhaps soaking before sowing isn't the best approach for wrightii seeds!

Here's some basic info about orchid seeds...

The orchid seed has no endosperm.  The seed consists of a simple, dry outer coat with a small mass of undifferentiated cells which form a pro-embryo.  This unit can be easily carried in air currents and may travel long distances before coming to rest.  - Calaway Dodson, Robert Gillespie, The Biology of the Orchids

Some more info...

Numerous mechanisms and devices promote appropriate carriage and secure anchorage.  The buoyancy of orchidaceous "dust" seeds is due not only to small size but also to a large airspace between embryo and testa; wall sculpturing and overall shape (usually fusiform) also help to keep them aloft and may encourage attachment to rough bark.  Tillandsioid bromeliad seeds feature hooked coma hairs for better attachment; similar devices on a much smaller scale adorn microsperms of shootless Chiloschista. - David Benzing, Vascular Epiphytes


Experiments indicate that buoyancy and mobility correlate with the apportionment of mass between the coma and the seed proper.   - David Benzing, Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation
More broadly, the epiphytes achieved relatively low terminal velocities at least in part because they allocate proportionally more biomass to the coma vs the seed proper.  Percentages (60.0-61.7%) of the aggregate seed mass represented by the flight apparatus grouped the obligate (T. utriculata and T. fasciculata) and faculative (T. ionochroma) epiphytes together, with saxicolous T. sphaerocephala (41%) as the outlier.  In short, the more consistently bark-dependent the taxon, the greater the relative cost of the coma, the more buoyant its seeds, and the greater the dispersal range.  - David Benzing, Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation

All Tillandsia seeds have endosperm.  This makes them heavier than orchid seeds.  In order to achieve greater buoyancy and travel greater distances... the Tillandsia seeds have "parachutes"... aka "comas".  The larger the coma, the more epiphytic the Tillandsia.

Does Epidendrum wrightii have a coma?  Kinda?  We can guess that the point of these appendages is to increase buoyancy and to help the seeds attach to bark.  But why don't other orchid seeds have these appendages?  Maybe they don't need them because they aren't as heavy as the seeds of Epi wrightii?  This would imply that, unlike orchid seeds, the seeds of Epi wrightii do have at least some endosperm.  And if most reed-stem Epis do have some endosperm... then we can guess that Epi wrightii is more epiphytic than most reed-stems.

According to Wikipedia (and Arditti and Ghani)... Epidendrum secundum has the distinction of having the longest seeds in the orchid family... 6.0 mm long.  Let's take another look at the comparison photo I took...

The penny is 19.05 mm in diameter... or around three Epi secundum seeds.  In the above photo we can see that the seeds of the Epi radicans cross have a short tail.  We can guess that Epi secundum seeds have a longer tail.  We can also guess that this is what Arditti and Ghani included in their measurement of the Epi secundum seeds.  So if we're including tails in the measurement of orchid seeds... then the seeds of Epi wrightii are a lot longer than the seeds of Epi secundum.

Are there any reeds with seeds that are longer than wrightii?  If so, then this would imply that they were more epiphytic than wrightii.

There are numerous species of reeds and I've only see a very small fraction of their seeds.  Hopefully this post will encourage people to share photos of their reed seeds.

It's really exciting to discover that wrightii seeds are somewhat similar to Tillandsia seeds.  This gives us some material that's potentially very useful in terms of breeding for orchids that are more epiphytic but have seeds that are easier to germinate (don't require flasking).

Monday, June 6, 2016

Echeveria Epiplus Orchid

Without trimmed bush...

With trimmed bush...

Uploaded for: Echeveria gibbiflora

My Echeveria gibbiflora is trying to win the Guinness World Book Record for tallest Echeveria. I'm guessing that it's around 8 years old because it blooms once a year and I counted around 8 bloomings.

A few years ago I attached a small division of Dendrobium discolor x canaliculatum to the Echeveria. So happy together? So how is the weather? Which orchid would you have chosen?

On the left you can see Kalanchoe beharensis epiplus Encyclia cordigera.

This is the first year that I've attached orchids to a few of my Aloes. I'm pretty sure that, out of all the succulents, Aloes have the most potential in terms of hybridizing to create some super awesome hosts for orchids. Right now there are some species and hybrids that are good hosts... but none of them are super awesome hosts. They are either too slow and/or don't have enough suitably sized and accessible branches. If I had to pick the best one it would probably be Aloe tongaensis. It's relatively fast but still not nearly fast enough.  And it's just a bit large for taking to shows.

A little while back I pollinated my Aloe tenuior with pollen from several different tree Aloes.  Aloe tenuior is a relatively fast grower that makes somewhat upright branches.  The branches are on the skinny side though so I tried crossing it with Aloes that have much thicker branches/trunks.  Pods formed and ripened, I sowed the seeds and now I have four seedlings.  From the getgo they looked stouter than tenuior but I couldn't be quite certain that they weren't selfings.  It's been kinda driving me nuts.  Their stoutness might just be a function of somewhat different culture (more sun, more water, fertilizer, etc.) but I'm leaning towards the idea that they are hybrids.  With what though?!  I didn't keep track of which pollen went in which flowers.

This last weekend my friend Michelle and I walked around my front yard comparing one of the seedlings with its potential pollen donors.  We narrowed the list down to these two Aloes...

Aloe dichotoma
Aloe Hercules

Woah!  It would be pretty wild if either of these two Aloes really was the pollen donor!  And normally I wouldn't jump the gun like this but I really want to encourage anybody and everybody to try and reduplicate these crossings in order to provide some evidence for, or against, the possibility of compatibility.  Of course with the main goal being to create/proliferate some super awesome hosts for orchids.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Prosthechea vitellina x Green Hornet

Post on Epiphyte Society of Southern California (ESSC) Facebook page


Next weekend (June 11, 12) is the Fern and Exotic Plant Show at the Los Angeles Arboretum.  Dan Asbell will be selling blooming size Prosthechea vitellina x Green Hornet orchids in 3" pots for $20 dollars.  Roberta Fox has been growing this cross near the coast and you can see a photo of it on her website...

Prosthechea vitellina is a cooler grower while Green Hornet is a warmer grower.  Will the cross grow when it's cooler and when it's warmer?  If so, then it will be an especially good orchid for growing outdoors year around here in Southern California!

Besides being a cooler grower, Prosthechea vitellina is pollinated by hummingbirds.  Will the cross also be pollinated by hummingbirds?  Let's find out!

Also be sure and check out the Orchid Society of Southern California (OSSC) auction on June 11 at 2pm!